Today General Motors rolled out significant details regarding its electrification plans, including an all-new battery the company has named Ultium. Ultium, paired with its new BEV3 architecture, will serve as the basis for numerous battery-electric vehicles.
“Our team accepted the challenge to transform product development at GM and position our company for an all-electric future,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “What we have done is build a multi-brand, multi-segment EV strategy with economies of scale that rival our full-size truck business with much less complexity and even more flexibility.”
The heart of GM’s strategy is centered on a new modular architecture known internally as the BEV3. The BEV3 architecture is flexible enough to be leveraged for nearly any market segment; from compact cars to off-road pickup trucks. BEV3 will exclusively be powered by the company’s new Ultium battery technology.
Ultium isn’t just a fancy name for the same kind of batteries other automakers are already using. Ultium batteries have a pouch-like cell design that allows them to stack the cells horizontally or vertically. This flexibility gives engineers the freedom to adapt the battery pack to various types and sizes of vehicles. It’s also allowing GM to shed complexity; going from about 550 combinations of internal combustion engines and architectures to just 19 different Ultium battery packs.
The Ultium packs will be offered in sizes ranging from 50 to 200 kWh, with a maximum range figure of 400 miles (per GM estimate). GM is also promising zero to 60 mph times in the sub-3 second range, a necessary bragging right to adequately compete with Tesla.
Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast-charging capability while our truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast-charging capability.
From an economic perspective, GM says it has gotten battery costs down to $100/kWh, a figure that is driving the automaker to already make the claim its first-generation of BEV3 vehicles will be profitable. This calculation is under the assumption GM will move about 1 million BEV3 vehicles by mid-decade. GM also notes they can build far more if demand is there.
Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC will all see BEV3 vehicles, starting this year. The first Chevrolet EV will be an updated version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV launching in late 2020, followed by the 2022 Bolt EUV, launching Summer 2021. The Bolt EUV will be the first vehicle outside of the Cadillac brand to feature Super Cruise, the industry’s first true hands-free driving technology for the highway, which GM will expand to 22 vehicles by 2023, including 10 by next year.
The first vehicle revealed on the BEV3 architecture was the Cruise Origin, which was first shown in January. The next one will be the Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV, which is slated for reveal on April 2nd. The reveal of the GMC Hummer EV will follow on May 20th. GM notes the architecture will support front, rear and all-wheel-drive. Production of the SUVs is slated to commence at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in fall 2021.